Interviewed at a distance, as required in these pandemic times, Mayor Richard Burcombe of Town of Brome Lake says he is proud of how the municipal team – councillors, managers and employees – has responded to the many successive directives and restrictions issued by governments and public health authorities since the beginning of the crisis. “Efficient, flexible, disciplined and proactive” is how he describes his team. One worry remains, however: the lifting of lockdown measures.

“We must absolutely not take one step forward only to take two steps back. If people don’t follow the basic rules, we will make it known. Obviously we expect an influx of summer visitors, but coming from elsewhere does not exempt them from following the procedures we have applied here in TBL.”

In accordance with provincial directives regarding a gradual lifting of lockdown this summer, some businesses will reopen and some activities will resume in TBL while others will remain closed or be cancelled. “Since we have no municipal police force, the Sûreté du Québec will respond if things get out of control,” says the Mayor.

In fact, he urges any citizen who witnesses a gathering, a failure to respect social distancing or any other hazardous behaviour to notify the SQ immediately by dialing *4141. Callers need not identify themselves.

We have all lost some freedom and democracy!

The lifting of lockdown rules will be a delicate transition for Mayor Burcombe. But as someone who likes to be out in the community and isn’t always at ease with technology, he hasn’t found sheltering in place or teleworking easy either. In his words, “I’m 70, so I followed the rules religiously and stayed at home. I didn’t even go to the IGA! But working from home with only virtual contact with my director general, with whom I usually meet early in the morning at the Town Hall, without chatting with or even seeing staff members, participating in a whole series of virtual conferences and meetings, having no personal contact with citizens, holding Council meetings behind closed doors, I admit that I find it all frustrating!” “We have all lost some degree of freedom and democracy because of this pandemic,” adds the mayor, “and it is irritating for everyone, including the mayor.”

Buying locally and major projects

Among the mayor’s current concerns are of course the TBL economy. “We are working with the MRC to encourage people to buy locally as much as possible. I wish we could provide greater tax relief for our merchants but, unfortunately, municipalities have very little leeway in this regard. We were able to help in a number of ways during the pandemic: by providing security at the IGA; by offering all businesses stands for hand sanitizing; and by supplying personal protective equipment to retirement homes at the beginning of the outbreak. We also monitored the comings and goings of people arriving from the United States and elsewhere.” And what about major projects such as rebuilding the dam, revitalizing downtown and expanding the library? “They are going ahead. It will take longer but we aren’t giving up,” he says. “Life goes on!” Locked down or not, Richard Burcombe is holding the fort.

Translation: Brian McCordick